Title: Under the Milky Way
Summary: Tag to Miller's Crossing. With Jeannie in recovery, Rodney watching over her, and Ronon sleeping away his boredom, John slips away to let his actions weigh down on him.
Inspiration: This was inspired by the song "Under the Milky Way." Normally, I don't like remakes (especially when the song was originally done by an amazing band like The Church), but Grant Lee Phillips's version of this song was just amazing, and similar enough to the original that I didn't want to rip my hair out. Anyway, "Under the Milky Way" was on repeat the whole time I was writing this, and it seems pretty appropriate, no?
Lyrics: Sometimes when this place gets kind of empty/Sounds of their breath fades with the light/I think about the loveless fascination/Under the milky way tonight
Lower the curtain down on Memphis/Lower the curtain down all right/I got no time for private consultation/Under the milky way tonight.
Wish I knew what you were looking for/Might have known what you would find
And its something quite peculiar/Something that's shimmering and white/Leads you here despite your destination/Under the milky way tonight.
Wish I knew what you were looking for/Might have known what you would find
Under the milky way tonight
"How is she doing?" John said in a whisper, staring down at Jeannie's sleeping form.
Rodney moved to stand next to him, and let one hand rest on his sister's, squeezing slightly, "Much better. The nanites have been completely wiped from her system; just in time so that her legs are healed but her brain is not. Um," he paused, "Boy, did that ever come out wrong." He shook his head and took a few steps backward until his legs hit the seat of a chair and he settled down against the cushion, "Anyway, she should be awake soon, if you wanna stick around."
John grinned smally and shrugged, "Nah, I'll let you two have some sibling-time; you know, let her yell at you for a while." He turned away from the woman and zipped up his jacket, sticking his hands in his pockets, "Okay, so, Ronon is back at the hotel--sleeping--and I'm going to head into town for a bit; call if you need anything."
"On your imaginary mobile?"
"Yep." John left then, stalking out of the building and across the blackened parking lot, already glistening from the rain that had not yet fallen, moisture thick like insect swarms in the air. His shoes made a consistent click, click, click against the asphalt that bounced off of those unseeable swarms, echoing back around his head, reminding him of just how alone he was; how empty the world around him had suddenly become. A large part of him wanted to stop, turn around, and quick-step it back to the hospital room, or the hotel room, or any room that was occupied by someone other than himself and his own mind. But an even larger part knew that he needed to be alone; that reflection was a solitairy act, especially when he was focusing on the not-so-proud aspects of his life. So he pressed on, following only the lifeless glow of the streetlights and his own breath, puffing out before him over air that was just cool enough to show him he was still alive, but nowhere near cold enough to numb him to the knowledge. He tilted his head upward, looking at the purples and pinks that stretched under a gauzy white strip, twinkling with unabashedly, unjustifiably hopeful stars. Where would he go? He didn't really have a plan. Wherever his feet took him while he wasn't keeping an eye on them, he supposed. This was risky, because the few other times in his life he'd let his feet decide, he'd ended up either enlisted in the military, married, divorced, or volunteering for a dangerous expedition. But no matter where his feet took him, they always took him farther and farther away from something he desperately needed to face.
Then the rain started to fall. It seemed only fitting. It fell hard and insistant, like leadened curtains pressing down on him. For a while, he stuck it out, letting the rain wash over him, soaking him thoroughly, leaving no part of his body untouched. He let it seep into his bones and chill him, waiting for it to deaden him; to turn him to stone. When a skin-deep numbness began to overtake him, along with a trembling cough, he finally surrendered to the need for shelter and found it in the only business still lighted along a five-shop stripmall: The Herrish Pub.
John stumbled in and wrestled with his jacket, which stuck to him so stubbornly that it seemed to take forever to get off. When he'd finally managed to slip away from the soaked article, he dropped down into one of the stools at the bar and met the bartender's eye, urging her over. The bartender--a large, tough-looking woman with "Analee" written in faded black ink under tattered lamination and pinned to her collar--walked over to him and leaned against the counter, asking him for his order without saying a word. John requested a Scotch neat, which was promptly delivered, and then stared down into the amber mirror for a long time before taking his first sip and pursing his lips as the bitter, burning liquid slid over his tongue and down his throat.
You killed him. The words finally formed in his mind and he felt his hand close tightly around the glass before him, bracing himself. There were other options, but you decided to kill him.
He shook his head. There were no otheroptions. I did what needed to be done.
You needed to kill him?
Todd needed to feed. And I did not kill him; I just--
What? Presented the situation? My god--is that what you've been telling yourself to keep from feeling guilty?
I'm not a liar.
You're lying to yourself. Even now. Hiding behind a heroic pretense; you're a murderer. You may as well have sucked the soul from that man's chest yourself, you--
He had nothing left to live for.
And that makes it all right?
No, it just--
No. No, it doesn't. No, it never will. Having nothing to live for will never justify not having your life.
He volunteered. It was the only way.
You forced him. And you didn't think hard enough.
I'm so sorry.
Just leave me alone.
Am I bothering you? Am I that endless little nagging in the back of your mind, constantly screaming and reminding you and eating away at you until you can't take it anymore? Am I terrorizing you? Am I killing you? Am I the guilt that's killing you the exact same way you killed Wallace?
"Just stop!" John barked aloud, his voice rough and weary. His fist tightened and his drink shattered in his grasp, the glass splintering and flying and sticking into the skin of his palm. The pain barely even registered next to what he was feeling inside. In fact, he wasn't even terribly aware of the situation until Analee approached him, towel in hand.
"So," she said slowly, carefully moving his hand so she could wipe away the broken glass and spilled Scotch beneath, "I guess you'll be needing a refill?"
John shook his head and cleared his throat, "Come to think of it, I'm not really thirsty." He tried to laugh, but it sounded more like a dry sob and he quickly covered it with, "Guess coming to a bar was a pretty dumb idea, then, huh?"
Analee shrugged, eyes down on his hand, plucking shards of glass out of his hand without asking or being asked, "I figure people stop when they gotta stop." She reached under the bar and retrieved a clean washrag, then draped it over his palm, "You follow the stars 'til they can't lead you no further, and then you just gotta stop and," she shrugged again, "Let life catch up with you."
"Life, huh?" John repeated bitterly, tightening the rag against his skin.
The bartender smiled good-naturedly, "She's a bitch, that's for sure. She'll hit you hard as she can. Make you forget how to feel good. Make you forget how to breathe. But she's gotta find you some time, and you gotta let her. She'll tear you apart. Been there plenty of times myself."
The words struck John in the worst of ways, and his head sunk down until his chin was almost rested against his chest. "So how do you keep yourself from letting life destroy you?"
Analee smirked and sighed thoughtfully, "Well, way I figure is: if she can getcha and make you remember all that really crummy stuff, then you can surely make yourself remember how to breathe."
John sat there for a moment in a state of awe at this woman. She seemed so wise, and he knew that her words held undeniable truth and inspiration, but he couldn't feel it. Slowly, he stood from the stool and reached for his wallet, "Um...let me pay you for the drink and the glass." But she waved him off, "You barely even drank anything, and it don't cost much for a new glass. Don't even think on it." The man opened his mouth to protest, but decided against it--partly because he knew he could never match a creature of such wisdom and insight, and partly because he was just too mentally exhausted; too far gone from himself. Instead, he nodded his thanks to her and left to rejoin the rain that pounded so strongly against the night sky.
He focused on blinking first. Open, shut, open shut. Then walking. Left, right, left, right. Then swinging his arms. Back, forth, back, forth. And finally...
Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.
Okay, so, um...-nervous shuffle-...How was it? Cheesy and cliché? I tried to make it deep and emotional, but I never know if I'm good at that or not. Please, please, please R&R.